By Pamela Spurling
For many women, this is a settled issue and so what I will share today will simply be reinforcement to that portion of the message of their lives. For others, I know this is a sensitive subject and so I am praying for sensitivity in sharing this message. I do not know many of you and many of you are my friends for whom I care very much. I want you to know that I desire only to share what the LORD has laid on my heart to share and not to be a judge of others. I have been acutely aware in the last week that I desperately need to put a guard on my mouth and carefully word my thoughts so as to not offend or convey a message that is not at all what I mean to convey. With this in mind, what follows are some thoughts on feminine dress and modesty and its importance for the Christian woman. This will be the second part of a message I wrote several weeks back concerning our appearance and our "message" to the watching world.
My prayer is that you could at anytime each day open the door,
greet your family or guests and say, "Welcome home!"
It seems there are a few "no trespassing" zones in our lives; zones we want to keep personal or private and don't want others' opinions dictating our actions. I understand this, and am sympathetic to this school of thought. I used to reject teaching that was out of my comfort zone and I am still that way, sometimes. Maybe you are the same way. It was not until I began to pray and seek the LORD, that I felt open to suggestions in the area of modesty and feminine dress. Additionally, it was about this time that I was listening seriously to messages about men's thought lives and the effect women have on men. This matter of dress has been difficult for me because as I have shared with you in the past, I grew up in what I would, by conservative Christian standards, now classify as a worldly home. There were no lines for modest dress or, rather they were drawn in such a dramatically different place than I draw them today. Then, even though I was saved, it would be many years before I would see a correlation between a woman's dress or appearance and demonstrating reverence or obedience to the LORD by dress and behavior. It would be even longer before I would decide that there were some articles of clothing I could no longer wear and some activities in which I would no longer participate. I read the Word over and over studying different passages that reference woman's clothing. Thankfully, there are women who have written on this subject and so I have learned and benefited from them also. We have so much to learn from godly women who have gone before us.
You know, that is all I hope to do... be a vessel the LORD can use for His message. When we are prompted to do something like this, we can also expect and accept the LORD's grace to help us obey Him.
"That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands,
that the word of God be not blasphemed."
So, why does the type of clothing we wear matter, and what is the purpose of our dress? One of the chief reasons for proper attire is that the LORD would be glorified in our choice of how we dress, that it would identify us (as feminine), cover us, protect us, that we would not defraud others, that our clothing would be appropriate to our work and that it would convey modesty and discretion.
What does it mean to be discreet? In regards to the area of clothing, I have asked this question many times and it is also the standard by which lots of my decisions are made… is this discreet? In regards to attire, I ask: does this piece of clothing look modest and discreet? Does it convey a message of discreetness?
A younger woman who is a good friend to me wrote me recently with questions regarding modest dress. I was so thankful for her candidness and her request for mine in my answers. I know that there are many times in which I allude to a matter without giving specific details---the reason for this is because I so long to write to encourage you, but never want to dictate that this or that way is the only correct way. However, one thing I do know, and it is this: the matter of our dress and appearance *is* important to the LORD. What we choose to wear matters. The first mention of the provision of clothing is in Genesis 3.21 where we read, "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them." The word "coats" used here means to cover; a shirt, coat, garment, robe. This is part of the “fall,” because in the last verse of the previous chapter, we read that they (Adam & Eve) were both naked and were not ashamed. So, we have much to learn by what is and what is not said. The lack of clothing is shameful. And the LORD God Himself made clothing (coats of skins) for them. There is much more to this and makes for an interesting study... perhaps you would like to search this out.
So, we then must ask, does our clothing contradict our gender as God created us (male and female), does it cover and protect us, does it tempt others' eyes.... sexually or materially? Does it draw attention to our body? Does it speak a different message than our words speak? Another key is that a woman would dress in a manner as to please her husband and reflect the glory of the LORD. Though the world will continually bombard us with a different message, we know in the Bible the LORD teaches us that "...the woman is the glory of the man." 1Corinthians 11.7 Does this enter into your decision making process as you select the clothing you will wear?
You might ask your husband about men... about their thoughts and what looking at a woman does to a man. What does looking at the bottom or front of a woman conjure up in their minds... What do form fitting gowns do to a man... what do men think of when following woman up a flight of stairs (or stares ;-) ) what do shorts say... what do slits up a dress say... what does sheer fabric say… what do words or symbols across the chest area of a tee-shirt say to a man... and finally, what type of clothing makes a man want to treat a woman tenderly, thoughtfully, and respectfully? We must all go sincerely and prayerfully before the LORD and before our husbands and hear them. Really hear them. When a woman is convicted about this area of clothing and modest apparel, many times husband's feel threatened by a wife's sudden change in attire... they think it will change their behavior... or limit their activities... I have found nothing difficult about dresses... As a matter of fact, my husband treats me gently because I wear a dress and I act discreetly because I wear a dress. It is so interesting how the benefits slowly reveal themselves. We may miss so many blessings and may not even realize we are squelching the LORD's work when we try to dress in a manner that is contrary to His design---and it will be particular to you---however He leads.
For me, my dresses are a daily reminder that my husband wears the pants in our family and I am created and designed to be *his* help meet.... not the other way around (though he demonstrates sacrificial care and treats me so lovingly). I am continually seeking to wait on him and to not usurp his authority, additionally, I am devoted to protecting my husband's reputation, and so my appearance is important to what others think of him and his family. This comes from Proverbs 31.11 and 23 Additionally, I have settled these thoughts... so when I get dressed daily, I don't give my appearance another thought. This helps me not esteem myself so highly that I constantly check my appearance and it also helps me to remain settled in my thinking... I know that I do not have to apologize or be ashamed of my appearance. I know that I may need to brush my hair or freshen up, but I don't wonder if my dress is too short or too tight or too thin or whatever. This is not at all said in pride or haughtiness. I have never felt real pretty, but I sure wouldn't feel feminine in clothing I used to wear. You know what I mean about being settled on an issue? It's an issue you don't fret over… you don't constantly revise or rethink it. Every now and then, I get a glimpse of a dress I am wearing and I see it from an angle I don't see at home and I see that it isn't quite right, and so I let it go. For this reason, I found it very simple to let go of things I used to consider appropriate. In all, I try to make or to choose pleasant looking clothes that don't draw attention to myself and yet look feminine and appropriate.
I glean from the Scriptures that a woman's clothing must pertain specifically to women... the test for me here is that it mustn't be something my husband or one of our sons would wear. This analogy breaks down a tiny bit in some areas, but even the cross over areas (turtlenecks, socks, long underwear) can be of a distinguishably feminine nature. It oughtta be just as ridiculous for me to grab something of my husband's or son's and wear it, as it would be for one of them to grab something of mine and wear it! But the lines have been blurred so much that we no longer think of men' s and women's wear as something to keep separate. We mock cross dressers, don't we? We think it's disgusting behavior, don't we? The LORD says it is an abomination (Deuteronomy 22.5 “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.”) Yeeouch… that is a pretty strong statement, isn't it! I know it is an Old Testament passage, and though we are not under the Law, and we know that this is not a “salvation issue,” it is still a principle from the word from which we can surely receive instruction. In the New Testament we read:
“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel,
with shamefacedness and sobriety;
not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array”
1 Timothy 2.9
What does our attire say? You know that when you seek out a restroom in a public place, for the most part you look for the symbol on the door… and what do you look for? You look for the “dress” on the door. You know it means that that room is for the women only. This is what our clothing ought to say: this garment is for a woman only.
We know a lot about a person by the clothing they wear… just like the symbol on the door of the restroom denotes the gender it is meant for, uniforms are used to identify personnel in different types of jobs or professions…clothing speaks volumes. In this next passage. the Bible speaks plainly about attire that is inappropriate and we should take note. Proverbs 7:10, "And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtle of heart.” Her clothing makes an inappropriate, read: sinful. She promotes or suggests sinful activity and yet, have we not all at one time or another worn clothing that solicits or advertises a false or defrauding message? I know I look back on days when I wore things I cannot imagine wearing today… and thought nothing of the “little nothing” I was wearing. Oh, I am grieved today at the thought that I perhaps caused a brother to stumble and worse that I hoped to be found attractive! What fruit have I now in those things whereof I am now ashamed (Romans 6.21).
So then, think for a moment about messages clothes give… we all know it when a woman who is wearing immodest or suggestive clothing walks into a room. The eyes of all are on her… she may or may not acknowledge it, but she knows it. And if we were sincere, we would all admit to liking the admiration of others. But when that admiration causes a brother to stumble, it is wrong and we must take responsibility for our actions and behavior that provokes that response. Again, our attire must not provoke lust in a man. Men see things differently than we do and what might not be offensive in our eyes is probably provocative in a man's eyes.
Which leads me to this last thought… I am going to specifically touch on an area that will really border on meddling… I wish only to offer insight here and not criticism. This will generate reaction and yet, it is not intended to be offensive. Could you stay with me a moment longer to hear this… When a woman walks into a room and she has on a pair of slacks or jeans, have you ever noticed where the eyes are drawn? Yes, everyone does it… we all look at where the zipper is and we all notice the shape under the back pockets. The thinness of the trouser fabric also reveals another provocative sight… and depending on the shape of the woman, the undergarment
is revealed. The pants that reveal no lines at all make a man wonder what the woman does or doesn't have on. The pants that reveal sexy undergarments make a man's mind go wild. The pants that reveal the shape of the “private area” makes a man imagine things he ought not. Jeans are no exception… in fact, jeans frequently are more suggestive than a woman may like to imagine.
There will always be arguments to the discussion of masculine and feminine attire…. A man may say he likes to “show off” his wife… well, whatever he is admiring in his wife, he can bet all the other men are admiring it, too. This is the lust of the eyes the LORD warns against. Do we dress to entice a man? We mustn't and if we have done this intentionally, we must turn from that way and walk in the ways of the LORD. Modesty is too important to just ignore or overlook. We must think on these things because the LORD directs us to in the written Word. Knowing that men's eyes are attracted to any curves of a woman's body and when the curves are accentuated and the eyes are drawn there, this must prompt the godly woman to avoid this trapping! Even if the pants are said to be loose and not form fitting, they still accentuate the womanly form… the gift that should be reserved and preserved for one man only… and for his eyes only.
"But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible,
even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."
1 Peter 3.4
For him whose heart safely trusts in her….. she is wise who knows that the price of a virtuous woman is far above rubies. May the LORD bless you in your endeavor to love and serve Him and may He give you the grace to obey Him.